Saturday, 1 January 2005

Goodness is stronger than evil

We turned left onto Aldham House Lane (narrowly avoiding an artic. that was clumsily turning into Perfecta Beds).  A few moments later we were pausing in the middle of the road, waiting to turn right into Smithley Lane which snakes its way past a couple of farms on the way to Dovecliffe and Wombwell Woods.  From this point there is an end on view of the parish with Swaithe and the back of Elmhirst school being the first buildings in view before the eye is taken on and up towards the hills in the West.  The orange of the sunset had been present since about midday (when it had been handed the baton by the gold of the dawn - the sun apparently struggling to get out of bed at all) and now it was making its final blush.  Imogen, whose turn it was to sit in the front, said, "It looks like a line with a paintbrush." Then, "Look.  It's like a beautiful painting across the sky." 
The commonest of responses, but containing a profound thought.  Does the artist look at nature in order to produce an image or can we actually see nothing until art (in the widest sense) shows us how?  In a way all our life-world is art - we construct pictures, stories, social patterns, ideas, religions.  It all evolves around us and we see the world through it.  Or perhaps the world we know is indistinguishable from it.
The Christmas story is pieced together from really just a very few verses at the start of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke - yet it has the power to vividly grip the imagination.  The mysterious messages, the willing self-giving of Mary, the overflowing of heaven together with earth, the uncaring shouts of No Room, and the vivid reality of the new born baby startling the months of dreaming and waiting.  Then there is the bit we willingly forget - the savage night of fear and jealousy as the babies of Bethlehem are dashed from the breast by the fury of the usurped king.
Some of you may have watched the series 'The Power of Nightmares' which was shown on BBC a few months ago.  It was fascinating and disturbing and its central idea was that fear is now the motivating factor in so much of modern life - exemplified above all by the threat of terror.
I have just reread 'Lord of the Flies' in which the imaginary external fears of a group of stranded boys unleash the very real danger of the potent darkness within.
Sometimes it seems that the Biblical image most descriptive of humankind is that of the Gadarene Swine (Luke 5.13).  Haunted by devils they rush headlong to their own destruction.
To be a Christian though is to believe in hope.  Or rather to commit oneself always to realising life's potential for good above its potential for evil.  It is to believe that the wonder and strangeness of birth is worthwhile and, though risky, love will forever be stronger than fear and hate. Beauty is always there waiting to be perceived.

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